CALGARY – A coalition of First Nations is raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to mount a legal challenge to the proposed oil-tanker ban on British Columbia’s north coast.
The challenge is coming from the backers of the proposed Eagle Spirit pipeline, a First Nation-led project that would bring oil from Alberta to the northern West Coast.
The chiefs’ council leading the project said in a news release Wednesday that they represent more than 30 communities engaged in the project, and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proposed ban on tankers would harm their communities by causing them to lose out on development opportunities.
They said the tanker ban came about because of pressure from U.S. environmental groups and is being imposed without the consultation of key Indigenous stakeholders.
“There was no consultation, and the government is responsible to the Aboriginal First Nations to do consultations,” said hereditary chief Gary Alexcee, who backs the energy project.
Transport Canada, however, said it held 75 engagement sessions to discuss the proposed moratorium, and that Transport Minister Marc Garneau engaged directly with all Indigenous groups along that would be affected or expressed an interest in the moratorium.
The government held 20 meetings with Indigenous groups and received numerous letters on the proposal, said Transport Canada spokeswoman Julie Leroux.
Bill C-48, known as the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, passed second reading in Parliament last October. The legislation has the support of many First Nations in B.C., including the nine members of the Coastal First Nations alliance.
“We fully support the tanker ban, it recognizes the importance of protecting the coast from oil spills,” said Marilyn Slett, chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council.
She said Heiltsuk had already experienced the threats of oil spills twice in the past year, with the sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart tugboat and the stranding of a barge carrying 12.5 million litres of oil.
“The vulnerability and risk of these types of incidents is very real, and so our position has been very strong in terms of support of the tanker ban.”
The federal government announced it was going ahead with the tanker ban in November 2016, at the same time it approved the expansion of Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.’s Trans Mountain pipeline and Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 pipeline replacement.